A New Year, A New You!
New Year’s resolutions are a great way to work towards being the person you want to be. This year, why not be a little bluer? Along with the rest of the Oceanbites writing crew, I’ve put together a list of suggested New Year’s resolutions that positively impact our troubled oceans, along with links to posts we’ve published this year that address the marine issues you’d be helping to solve!
Are you planning on making a blue New Year’s resolution this year? Let us know in the comments!
Clean Up Your Act:
Unless you’ve been living under a seashell for the past couple years, I’m sure you’ve heard that plastics have become a huge problem for our ocean. Small pieces of plastic called microplastics are accumulating in ocean gyres and sinking to the deep ocean. A wide variety of important ocean species, including corals, sea turtles, humpback whales, and even tiny plankton, are consuming microplastics, with unknown consequences for marine ecosystems. Microplastics are also ending up in human diets through seafood and sea salt consumption.
A lesser-known but equally serious problem is the chemical contamination of our marine resources. Thousands of man-made, persistent toxic chemicals accumulate in marine organisms like plankton and can cause health problems for marine mammals and humans as they travel up the food chain.
You can help reduce our impacts on the ocean in 2016 by resolving to reduce your use of harmful products, or resolving to clean up the messes others have made:
- Take a plastic pledge: Pledge to reduce your plastic usage this year. Some easy resolutions to take up: always bring a travel mug with you to the coffee shop, don’t use plastic straws, and bring reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. Websites like klean kanteen and plastic pollution coalition offer more information on plastic pledges.
- Clean up our beaches: Reducing the amount of plastic we’re using is one thing, but there’s already A LOT of plastic floating around out there. You can help contribute to cleanup efforts by joining one of the organizations below. Check out the Ocean Conservancy to join a coastal cleanup group in your area, or learn how to plan a cleanup of your own. If you’re a Rhode Island/New England local, check out the Save the Bay website for coastal cleanup and other volunteer opportunities. Another easy option? Just resolve to pick up one piece of garbage on every jog or dog walk this year.
- Switch to greener products: If you want to do your part to reduce the amount of chemicals that end up in our oceans, resolve to go through your cabinet of household cleaners, or your collection of soaps, shampoos, lotions, and cosmetics, and replace those containing problematic chemicals with safer alternatives. To name a few, stop using products that contain triclosan, parabens, polyethylene, and if possible, fragrance (unless it’s specified as natural fragrance). Websites like EWG’s product guide can help you figure out what to buy and what not to buy.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint:
Reducing your carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is good for the Earth and your budget. Rising CO2 is a huge issue for the health of our marine resources: warming temperatures are affecting the structure and distribution of marine ecosystems, redefining where marine species like fish, crabs, and lobsters are able to live, and causing sea ice to melt. Ocean acidification, which is caused by rising CO2, could hurt beneficial species while encouraging certain nuisance species to flourish, and causes fish to be more vulnerable to predators.
How can you help? Take on one of the following simple resolutions for 2016!
- Eat less meat: It’s not just good for your health – it’s good for the planet! Production of meat, especially beef, has a lot of serious negative environmental consequences, including the production of a significant fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions. Not ready to go vegetarian? Try resolving to eat one less meat-containing meal a week, or going meat-free one day per week.
- Drive less – ride a bike! This one speaks for itself – bikes are fun, cut down on gas costs, and improve your health!
- Drive less – ride a bus! Not as much fun as a bike, but resolving to commute via public transport, or to opt for public transport instead of the car on weekends, can do wonders to reduce your carbon footprint.
If you like seafood, do your part to make sure you eat it sustainably. Overfishing could cause the collapse of key fisheries, but if we fish and consume sustainably we could help important species to bounce back.
To keep it simple, eat fewer top-predator fish like salmon, tuna, and swordfish, and more smaller fish. Try to avoid trawl-caught seafood, as trawlers can wreak havoc on marine ecosystems. Resolve to use the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app and consumer guide to help you make sustainable choices, or only eat seafood recommended as Best Choices by the Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector, and avoid their Worst Choices.
Beyond beach cleanups, there are plenty of other ways you can get outside, get active, and help scientists help our oceans. Here are some suggestions:
- Search for citizen science projects at NOAA, SciStarter, or check out Wikipedia’s large list of active projects.
- Get involved in local projects monitoring watershed health – check with local universities to see what active projects are occurring. In the New England area, you can do things like count river herring or conduct monitoring for University of New Hampshire, or participate in biological census projects through the Stewardship Network.
- If you’re a diver, there are a lot of cool projects for you at reef.org.
The first step to being able to help our oceans is to learn about them. The more we appreciate the oceans as a fantastic resource, and understand the threats this resource currently faces, the better we can spread the word and make informed choices. A fun resolution might be to learn more about our oceans this coming year, perhaps by resolving to follow one or more of these great marine science blogs!
… and of course our very own oceanbites!
I am the founder of oceanbites, and a postdoctoral fellow in the Higgins Lab at Colorado School of Mines, where I study poly- and perfluorinated chemicals. I got my Ph.D. in the Lohmann Lab at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, where my research focused on how toxic chemicals like flame retardants end up in our lakes and oceans. Before graduate school, I earned a B.Sc. in chemistry from MIT and spent two years in environmental consulting. When I’m not doing chemistry in the lab, I’m doing chemistry at home (brewing beer).